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Drought Expected to Persist Through February in Great Plains

The drought that has dried out farmland in the Midwest and Great Plains is expected to persist at least through February in most areas and spread across Texas.

Drought will probably linger from Nevada to western Missouri and Iowa during the period, according to the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. It’s also likely to spread into parts of western and eastern Texas where it had been absent.

Conditions are expected to improve in parts of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois and in eastern Missouri and Iowa, the climate center said yesterday.

The Midwest drought, the worst since 1956, sent corn prices to record highs earlier this year and choked traffic on the Mississippi River as water levels fell. It is now blamed for the worst crop conditions for U.S. winter wheat in at least 27 years, which will affect feed costs for cattle producers in the Great Plains.

In Kansas, the biggest grower of winter wheat, there has been little or no rain for a month to nourish newly planted crops that go dormant until about March and are harvested in June. Wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade are up 32 percent this year, the biggest gain among the 24 commodities tracked by the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index.

At least 58.8 percent of the contiguous 48 states are currently covered by drought, with 6 percent of the region in the worst category of dryness, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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